Tag Archives: Brexit

Ten Irish stories to watch in 2023

Happy New Year. Here are 10 stories to watch in 2023 in Ireland and Irish America:

  1. The 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement is in April. Queens University Belfast plans to recognize the milestone, which certainly will draw American participation.
  2. Ongoing negotiations over the Brexit trade “protocol” between Northern Ireland, other parts of Great Britain, and the Republic of Ireland, remains a contentious issue that threatens peace in the province. Yea, it’s confusing. Here’s an explainer from the BBC.
  3. Resolving the protocol also is key to restoring the Northern Ireland Assembly, which the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has blocked from operating since losing the majority to Sinn Féin in the May 2022 election. A new election is expected this spring.
  4. In addition to fixing the protocol and holding the election, the May coronation of King Charles III could have some impact on relations between unionists and nationalists in the North, if only symbolically. For perspective, Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation occurred 15 years before the start of the Troubles. Charles has already signaled his impatience with the DUP’s tactics.
  5. May also marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the Irish Civil War in what was then called the Irish Free State. This will be the conclusion of the 12-year-long “Decade of Centenaries,” which began in 2012 with remembrances of the introduction of the third home rule bill and signing of the Ulster Covenant. It has included the centenary of World War I, the 1916 Easter Rising, and the Irish War of Independence.
  6. U.S. President Joe Biden appears likely to travel to Ireland this year. His last visit was 2016 as vice president. In December, Biden named former U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, grandson of the late U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy, as special envoy to Northern Ireland to focus on economic development and investment opportunities.
  7. Irish tourism reached 73 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2022, but industry officials are bracing for only single-digit growth or a potential decline in 2023. Full recovery to 2019 levels is not expected until 2026, the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation said.
  8. Met Éireann, the Irish weather service, says 2022 was the warmest year in Ireland’s history and the 12th consecutive year of above-normal temperatures. Climate change will continue to impact daily life, the economy, and politics on both sides of the border.
  9. Interim measures were announced last fall to sort out financial troubles at the American Irish Historical Society and Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, in New York City and Connecticut, respectively. It’s worth keeping an eye on these important organizations to be sure both are fully restored.
  10. Finally, here’s something that will not happen on the island of Ireland in 2023: a reunification referendum. See the “North and South” package of polling and stories from The Irish Times.

Ballinskelligs, Co. Kerry.                                                                                                          Kevin Griffin via Fáilte Ireland.

Catching up with modern Ireland

A periodic post of curated content …

Northern Ireland Assembly election are scheduled for May 5. The DUP’s Paul Givan resigned in early February as the power-sharing Executive’s first minister to protest the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Brexit-driven trade rules that separate the region from the rest of Britain. Givan’s move resulted in Sinn Féin‘s Michelle O’Neill losing her role as deputy first minister and cast doubt on whether the Executive, or the Assembly, could return after the election … if it takes place. The New York Times featured Upheaval in Northern Ireland, With Brexit at Its Center.

  • Ireland is repealing nearly all of its COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches its second anniversary. Overall, Ireland did pretty well dealing with the pandemic when compared with how other countries responded, Irish Times Public Affairs Editor Simon Carswell told the Feb. 27 In The News podcast.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden will travel to Ireland this summer, according to media reports that surfaced before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He visited his ancestral County Mayo homeland as vice president in 2016 and 2017.
  • Claire D. Cronin presented her credentials as United States Ambassador to Ireland to President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins on Feb. 10. Cronin is 25th U.S. ambassador to Ireland and third woman in the role, following Margaret Heckler and Jean Kennedy Smith.

Higgins, left, and Cronin.

History notes:

  • Two former nuns created a “Coastal Camino” that is bringing travelers to an otherwise neglected part of Northern Ireland, reports BBC’s Travel section.
  • Seventh century Irish monks who were largely responsible for transforming this sacrament into the version with which we’re familiar, John Rodden writes in Commonweal.
  • My story on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday for History News Network at George Washington University.

See previous “Catching up with modern Ireland” columns and annual “Best of the Blog.”

Catching up with modern Ireland

A periodic post of curated content …

  • As of Jan. 21 the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are easing most COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic enters its third year. “As we face into our second century as a free democracy, and as we navigate this new phase of COVID, it is time to be ourselves again,” Taoiseach Micheál Martin said.
  • Negotiations to revise the so-called Northern Ireland protocol have warmed under new British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, with the UK and EU trying to reach a deal by the end of February. This will help keep Brexit from jeopardizing Northern Ireland Assembly elections, which are expected in May. The potential ouster of PM Boris Johnson could be a wild card.
  • The Republic imposed a minimum unit price on alcoholic beverages as a public health measure intended to curb binge drinking and reduce alcohol-related health issues, the New York Times reported. The measure is part of 2018 legislation that included limitations on the labeling and marketing of alcoholic beverages — an important step toward combating alcohol abuse in Ireland.
  • The Irish government also has introduced a basic income program for up to 2,000 artists and other culture workers, with €25 million ($28.3 million) allocated to people and venues over three years.
  • Ireland is second only to Germany in the value of assets moved from the UK to EU banks after Brexit. “While Ireland’s international financial services sector has steadily grown over the decades, the UK’s exit from the EU has accelerated this trend, with Ireland now one of the key EU hubs for international banking and capital markets activity,” Fiona Gallagher, chair of the Federation of International Banks in Ireland (FIBI) and CEO of Wells Fargo Bank International, said in the report release.

Notable deaths:

  • Aoife Beary, 27, a survivor of the Berkeley, Calif., apartment balcony collapse, died Jan. 1, 2022, after suffering a stoke a few days earlier, the Irish Times reported. Five Irish J-1 visa students and one Irish-American died in the June 16, 2015, event, with Beary among seven injured. She suffered a brain injury and subsequently underwent open heart surgery. … See my 2016 post, ‘When Bloomsday feels like doomsday’.
  • No sooner had Beary’s funeral passed than Ireland was shocked by the murder of 23-year-old teacher Ashling Murphy while jogging a canal path near Tullamore. “The murder has shocked the country and around 100 vigils were organised the length and breadth of Ireland and Northern Ireland, including outside Dublin’s parliament,” Reuters reported. The killer was still at large as of this post.

History notes:

  • The Journal.ie published a 50th anniversary timeline of 1972 events in Northern Ireland, the bloodiest year of The Troubles. A staggering 480 people, mostly civilians, were killed that year, compared to 297 in 1976 and 294 in 1974, the second and third highest yearly totals. … The International Fund for Ireland (IFI) reported that more than 100 barriers still separate Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods in the North more than two decades after the Good Friday Agreement. The so-called “peace walls” include high concrete walls, gates, fences, and even private and government-owned buildings. Nearly 70 percent of all conflict-related killings in Belfast between 1966 and 2001 took place within one third of a mile of a peace-wall, IFI said in a Jan. 5 tweet.
  • A shroud of uncertainty hangs over the American Irish Historical Society as the New York City institution marks its 125 anniversary this year. The New York State Attorney General’s Office investigation into financial improprieties announced nearly a year ago remains open. “What is certain is that the questions originally posed still require answers, that the status quo cannot be maintained, and that the Society requires immediate reform and restructuring,” former AIHS Chairman Brian McCabe wrote in the Irish Echo.
  • Tentative steps are being taken to digitize the Irish Land Commission’s vast files to public. This will not happen quickly, but it is a great step forward.

Colebrooke Park in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.               Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland content pool.

Catching up with modern Ireland: September

As fall begins, tourism is returning to Ireland; housing prices are up, with the corporate tax rate perhaps soon to follow; and Brexit and the border continue to cause uncertainty in the North. Our monthly roundup:

  • Lough Graney, Co Clare                                                        Tourism Ireland photo

    As of Sept. 28, Ireland was the new No.1 in Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking. Almost 90 percent of the population is vaccinated. More restrictions are due to be eased in mid-October.

  • Unsurprisingly, Tourism Ireland has launched a “Green Button” campaign “to re-start tourism and encourage Americans to book Ireland as their next holiday destination. The €4.1 million campaign will target six key gateways and 11 priority cities, to reach and engage audiences who have the highest potential to travel to the island of Ireland. It is scheduled to run through early January 2022.”
  • See my September piece on “Welcoming American tourists to Ireland, 1913-2021.”

The North

  • Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Convey warned that the lingering dispute between the United Kingdom and the European Union over post-Brexit border arrangements could lead to the “collapse” of institutions around a two-decade-old Northern Irish peace agreement if the two sides cannot break the impasse, Foreign Policy reported.  Coveney visited Washington, D.C., after meetings in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
  • “I would not at all like to see, nor, I might add, would many of my Republican colleagues like to see, a change in the Irish accords, the end result having a closed border in Ireland,” President Joe Biden said after meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, AP reported. The administration and members of Congress are concerned the British government wants to change the terms of its post-Brexit border deal.
  • But … the leaders of the four largest unionist parties in the North have released a joint declaration that reaffirmed their opposition to the Northern Ireland protocol. They’ve suggested the issue could collapse the always precarious Northern Ireland Assembly.
  • Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is still expected to attend an Oct. 21 prayer service marking the centennial of the partition of Ireland. Irish President Michael D. Higgins withdrew from the event, claiming that it had been “politicized.”

And more …

  • The Irish government may commit to raising its 12.5 percent corporate tax rate, but only if the global Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development agrees to amend proposed text from “at least 15 percent” to just “15 percent”, as it fears that the first formulation could lead to future rises in the rate.
  • House prices in Ireland have climbed 9 percent over the last year as the supply of rooftops remains restricted. The average price nationwide in the third quarter of 2021 was €287,704, a total of €24,000 higher than last year. This figure is 22 percent below the Celtic Tiger peak but three quarters above its lowest point in 2012, TheJournal.ie says, citing data from the Daft.ie and Myhome.ie websites.
  • Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner is failing to apply European Union privacy laws to U.S. tech giants such as Google, FacebookAppleMicrosoft, and Twitter, which all have their European headquarters in Dublin. See Irish Council for Civil Liberties report
  • Pamela Uba, 26, who moved to Ireland from South Africa with her family at age 8, became the first Black woman crowned Miss Ireland. The contest dates to 1947.

Irish president skips meet with British queen

Irish President Michael D. Higgins’ decision to decline an invitation to attend an October ecumenical religious service commemorating the centenary of North Ireland–an event Queen Elizabeth II is expected to attend–has set off a firestorm of criticism.

Bobby McDonagh, a former Irish ambassador to London, Brussels, and Rome, weighed the go/no go quandary for The Irish Times:

On the one hand, the president, as someone who has been and remains to the forefront in promoting reconciliation, could have decided to attend the event. He could have noted that the intention was to “mark” rather than to “celebrate” the controversial events of a hundred years ago. He could have attended the religious service in the spirit in which the church leaders who issued the invitation no doubt intended it, as a prayerful ceremony to reflect on past events that have led to a century of much pain and heartache on all sides.

On the other hand, the president will have been aware that partition remains a deeply controversial and contested issue across the island and that many in Northern Ireland regard him as their president. He will have understood that the distinction between “marking” and “celebrating” can be deliberately muddied and would have been, by some, in this instance. He may have considered that the wording of the invitation, even if it refers to acknowledging failures and hurts, did not fully capture the organizers’ intention of marking the full complexity of our history, including radically divergent views on partition. He was also aware of his obligation to avoid political controversy; indeed in 2016 he pulled out of an event in Belfast to mark the Easter Rising because it did not have cross-community support.

Higgins made a state visit to the United Kingdom in 2014, including a stop at Windsor Castle, three years after the monarch visited the Republic of Ireland. Nevertheless, Ulster unionists (who declined to attend the 2018 visit of Pope Francis to the republic) have characterized Higgins’ decision as a snub to the queen. It’s certainly a distraction from their sinking poll numbers and ongoing struggles with Brexit and COVID-19.

Queen Elizabeth and Michael Higgins, with spouses and others trailing, in 2014. Photo from office of the President of Ireland.

Higgins has also faced some criticism at home. He told the Times:

There is no question of any snub intended to anybody. I am not snubbing anyone and I am not part of anyone’s boycott of any other events in Northern Ireland. I wish their service well but they understand that I have the right to exercise a discretion as to what I think is appropriate for my attendance.

Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, and the Irish Council of Churches have said they will attend the Oct. 21 event. I expect there will be further developments over the coming month.

Catching up with modern Ireland: August

UPDATE: This story broke Aug. 31, a day after the original post, found below the graphic.

The population of the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland has eclipsed 5 million for the first time since 1851, near the end of the Great Famine, according to the Central Statistics Office. Then, about 6.6 million people lived on the island of Ireland, including the six counties of the North. Today about 1.9 million people live in Northern Ireland, for an island-wide total surpassing 170 years ago.

CSO graphic

ORIGINAL POST

Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum in Connecticut, closed for over a year due to COVID-19, will not reopen, owner Quinnipiac University says. The museum is said to hold the world’s largest collection of historic and contemporary Irish famine-related art works. The pandemic has further eroded the museum’s poor financial footing, which surfaced in 2019.

“The university is in active conversations with potential partners with the goal of placing the collection on display at an organization that will increase access to national and international audiences,” Associate Vice President for Public Relations John Morgan wrote in an early August statement.

The museum opened in 2012. The 175th anniversary of “Black ’47”, the worst year of the famine, is next year.

Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute, founded and directed by history professor Christine Kinealy, remains open, as does the special collection of famine-related books, journals, and documents at the Arnold Bernhard Library on the Mount Carmel Campus, Morgan said.

I visited the library and museum in March 2013. I hope this impressive collection finds a good home.

More news from August:

  • “With economic crises spiraling out of control and Brexit casting the uneasy post-Troubles peace into doubt, republicans have found their political niche and are capitalizing on it,” Aidan Scully writes in Harvard Political Review. “Across the island, Sinn Féin is pushing up against decades-old traditions and systems and finding little pushing back. Ireland’s two-party system is gone, forever, and Sinn Féin is here to stay.”
  • Fresh polling by the Belfast Telegraph shows support for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has dropped 13 percent, placing it third among unionist parties and fourth overall in Northern Ireland, with Sinn Féin at the top. Elections in the North as scheduled for May 2022.
  • Ryanair announced it is leaving Northern Ireland, blaming air passenger duty and a lack of “incentives” from Belfast International and Belfast City airports. The carrier pulled out of Derry airport earlier this year.
  • Tourism Ireland, the island-wide marketing agency, has drawn criticism for using “Londonderry” instead of “Derry” in some materials. The former is still the official name, the latter in wider usage, especially since the hit television show “Derry Girls.”
  • Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell made headlines with comments about the church’s “underlying crisis of faith” and “current model of the Church is unsustainable.” Further context and perspective from Gladys Ganiel on the Slugger O’Toole Blog.
  • An eight-foot-tall, 1,600-year-old wooden sculpture was recovered a bog in Gortnacrannagh townland, Co. Roscommon during excavations for a road construction project, Smithsonian reported. The Iron Age figure was made from a split oak trunk and has what appears to be a human head and a series of horizontal notches carved along its body.
  • Ireland is missing its chance to protect its dwindling biodiversity with several iconic species of bird, fish and mammals under threat, TheJournal.ie reports in a special investigation.
  • “What I will miss most about the US is the people,” Irish Times Washington correspondent Suzanne Lynch wrote in her farewell column. “Wherever I traveled, I was consistently struck by the generosity and warmth of American people. Their relentless optimism, good humor and willingness to engage make it a pleasure to live in this country.”
  • See previous monthly round ups and our annual “Best of the Blog.”

Ballinskelligs, Co. Kerry.                                                  Courtesy Kevin Griffin via Fáilte Ireland.

The 12th in Northern Ireland, 1921 & 2021

UPDATE:

Annual Orange Order marches in Northern Ireland occurred without incident, police said, “allaying concerns that anger at post-Brexit trade barriers might fuel street violence,” Reuters reported.

The 35,000-member Protestant and unionist organisation held 500 smaller, local parades rather than the usual 18 larger gatherings due to COVID-19 restrictions. The annual events, which mark the 1690 victory at the Battle of the Boyne by Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James of England and Scotland, were cancelled last year. A leading Orangeman told the BBC the new arrangement “achieved what we have set out to achieve, we wanted to spread the crowds across Northern Ireland.”

A planned nationalist protest in west Belfast was cancelled after the Orange Order amended its parade route, BBC reported.

ORIGINAL POST:

July 12, 1921, marked the first time the Battle of the Boyne, the seminal event of Irish Protestant and unionist identity, was commemorated in the new statelet of Northern Ireland. The political partition of six northeastern counties from the remaining 26 occurred a month earlier. On July 11, 1921, a day before the 231st Boyne anniversary, Irish republicans and British forces began a truce in their two and a half year old war.

The 1921 United Press story on this page appeared on the front pages of dozens of U.S. newspapers. It reports the mix of traditional sectarian violence associated with the 12th and confusion over the day-old truce.

July 12, 2021, is the first time the Boyne anniversary takes place under the Northern Ireland protocol, a de facto trade border in the Irish Sea between the six counties and the rest of the United Kingdom. It became necessary due to Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, called Brexit, to avoid a land border with the Republic of Ireland, which remains in the E.U. The protocol is “the most significant change [in Northern Ireland] that has taken place since partition,” unionist politician Reg Empey said. Violence erupted in Belfast earlier this year over displeasure with the arrangement, which critics say makes Northern Ireland “a place apart.”

Here is a sampling of media coverage about the current situation, including the protocol problems and Boyne anniversary. I have not yet seen any U.S. stories that make the connection between this year’s 12th events and the 1921 creation of Northern Ireland and truce. Full stories are linked from the date:

“The chief executive of Northern Ireland’s Protestant Orange Order does not sense any appetite among pro-British unionists to turn the July 12 peak of the annual marching season violent despite “a huge amount of frustration and anger” over Brexit.” Reuters, July 9, 2021

***

“But whatever tensions might have existed before … Brexit exacerbated them exponentially. For it revealed how Britain, which voted to leave the EU, sees Northern Ireland, which voted to Remain, as ultimately expendable. One of the clearest signs of this was the customs border in the Irish Sea that Britain negotiated with the EU. As of January 2021, it effectively separates Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK and pushes the country closer toward the South’s economic sphere. This development, along with the various ways loyalist parties like the DUP were used as pawns during Brexit negotiations, has contributed to a growing sense of betrayal among Unionist politicians and their base.” Jacobin, (American leftist magazine, Brooklyn, N.Y.) July 7, 2021.

***

“Sinn Fein’s leaders say that, with a growing Catholic population and the fallout from Brexit, momentum is on their side. The unionist parties supported Brexit, while they opposed it. They view the campaign against the protocol as a futile effort that only lays bare the costs of leaving the European Union.” The New York Times, June 7, 2021.

Catching up with modern Ireland: May

Ireland is slowly emerging from COVID-19 lockdown. Outdoor dining for pubs and restaurants resumes June 7; indoor service is set to begin in early July. Fáilte Ireland, the national tourism development agency, launched a €4 million “Keep Discovering” marketing campaign to drive domestic holidays and help to reboot the industry. Foreign visitors still face restrictions, though many are expected to begin easing in July. … Nearly 7,100 people have died in the Republic (4,941) and Northern Ireland (2,153).

The Press Council of Ireland & Office of the Press Ombudsman declared in its annual report: “The Irish media’s response to the challenge of reporting on the first pandemic for over a hundred years was overwhelmingly professional with the provision of objective information, analysis and debate. This considerable achievement was made against a backdrop of significant declining resources and the need for remote working.”

More from May:

  • Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) selected Edwin Poots as its new leader. On the one hand, he is seen in the mold of the late Ian Paisley; on the other, some observers say he could be surprisingly open minded. Potts is opposed to Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trade barriers (the Irish Sea “protocol”) and conservative on social issues. Potts pledged to unite the bickering strands of unionism to fight the Brexit deal and keep the province in the United Kingdom. … Doug Beattie, a British army veteran, was elected as the new leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) in an uncontested race.
  • Britain announced plans for legislation to give greater legal protection to former soldiers who served during during The Troubles. sparking angry opposition from victims and lawmakers. The announcement came the day a judge-led inquiry in Northern Ireland found that British soldiers unjustifiably shot or used disproportionate force in the deaths of up to 10 innocent people in Belfast in 1971.
  • Irish and British government ministers are to meet for a formal summit on Northern Ireland in June in the first British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference in two years.
  • Dáil Éireann passed a motion condemning the “de facto annexation” of Palestinian land by Israeli authorities. An amendment that sought to impose sanctions on Israel and expel the Israeli ambassador failed.
  • Ireland’s Health Service Executive and Department of Health experienced cyber attacks.
  • A pair of cranes are nesting on a revitalized peat bog in the Irish Midlands. It is hoped they could be the first of the species to breed on the island in some 300 years. …. Ireland has ceased industrial peat harvesting and begun rehabilitating thousands of hectares of boglands by rewetting the drained sites and recreating crane habitat.
  • Scientists at NUI Galway have found an alarming rise in Noble False Widow spiders and confirm their bites can require hospitalization.
  • Pedalmania: 32 cycle routes in Ireland, one in every county.
  • A decade has passed since U.S. President Barack Obama visited Ireland. In a May 23, 2011 address in Dublin, he offered “hearty greetings of tens of millions of Irish Americans who proudly trace their heritage to this small island.” Full remarks.
  • Image: Ross Castle, Killarney, Co. Kerry, from Tourism Ireland.

Troubles & Trimble return to Northern Ireland

The 23rd anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement (April 10, 1998) arrives with a surge of violence in Northern Ireland. Though not a 10-year or quarter-century mark that would normally draw attention, events of the past week make this post as unavoidable as the media coverage from Belfast.

As The Washington Post reported, the violence has been “triggered in part by pro-British Protestant unionists who fear that their home is drifting away from Britain in the new realities of a post-Brexit world.” Then, “hundreds of Irish nationalist and unionist demonstrators began to face off, a worrying escalation that stirred old memories of the 30 years of sectarian violence known as the Troubles, which led to the deaths of 3,500 civilians, British security personnel and paramilitary members.”

David Trimble, left, and the late John Hume after winning the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize. Irish Times photo.

One early opinion piece about the latest round of troubles comes from David Trimble, the former unionist leader, who shared the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize with the late nationalist John Hume for their work leading to the Good Friday Agreement. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Trimble says the GFA:

protected the union and put the future of Northern Ireland in the hands of its people. Voters put their trust in my assurances and supported the agreement. Now this promise of self-determination is under threat due to the Northern Ireland protocol …

The protocol doesn’t safeguard the Good Friday Agreement. It demolishes the agreement’s central premise by removing the assurance that democratic consent is required to change Northern Ireland’s status. That is why I feel betrayed personally by the protocol; it is also why the unionists in Northern Ireland are so incensed at its imposition.

Unsurprisingly, Trimble’s piece is pocked by selective memory and self-promotion.

  • He spits about the terrorism of Irish republicans but ignores the murders and other violence committed by Northern Ireland’s loyalist mobs in collusion with British police and military officers.
  • He avoids mentioning that that majority of people of Northern Ireland voted against Brexit … they wanted to remain in the EU … but got drag in by the conservative xenophobes of the English Midlands.
  • He neglects to say that PM Boris Johnson and the British government that he and other unionists are so attached to (along with the monarchy) negotiated and agreed to this protocol.
  • Finally, he willfully ignores the fact that Johnson and many MPs in Parliament would be happy to jettison the six counties of the North, which are a drag on the British treasury.

Trimble should work to facilitate the smooth reunification of Ireland, which would eliminate all the trade barriers he ostensibly worries about. More importantly, it would help bring about the healing of the now 100-year-old division of the island of Ireland. This ultimately would be more in line with the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.

I’m not saying this would be easy. But it is the best solution for the future.

Catching up with modern Ireland: March

Two of the blog’s sharp-eyed email subscribers, both journalists, tipped me on two of the stories in this month’s roundup, which includes news about an old building in New York City, and a new building in Cork city. Enjoy. MH

  • For the second year, St. Patrick’s Day parades and related events were either cancelled, downsized, or made virtual due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. About 6,800 people have died in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland since the pandemic began a year ago.
  • New York Attorney General Letitia James has agreed to review the proposed sale of the American Irish Historical Society building in Manhattan. The 1901 Gilded Age mansion has been the society’s home for 80 years. The Irish government, which has given nearly $1 million to the society since 2008, has decried the proposed sale, and dozens of prominent artists and business leaders have joined nearly 30,000 others in petitioning James to step in. (Thanks Gary S.)

American Irish Historical Society at 991 Fifth Avenue. Photo: Tony Hisgett, Birmingham, UK.

  • Marty Walsh, the Irish-American mayor of Boston since 2014, was confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Labor in the Biden administration. His parents were 1950s emigrants of County Galway.
  • Vicki Kennedy, widow of the late U.S. Sen. Edward (Ted) Kennedy (D-Mass.), is said to be on President Joe Biden’s short list for U.S. Ambassador to Ireland. Others include Chicago lawyer John Cooney, New York civil rights lawyer Brian O’Dwyer, former Ireland Fund Chairman John FitzPatrick,  Massachusetts state rep Clare Cronin, and former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tommy O’Neill, son of former House Speaker “Tip” O’Neill, according to IrishCentral.
  • Former U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd, a Biden ally earlier believed to be in line for the ambassador’s post, instead joined the Irish executive consultancy and lobbying firm Teneo as a senior adviser.
  • Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace agreement is under threat and a “Pandora’s box” of protest and political crisis will be opened unless the European Union agrees to significant changes in the Brexit deal with the United Kingdom, Reuters reported. At issue is a dispute over the implementation of the so-called Northern Ireland protocol in the Irish Sea, which is designed to prevent a hard land border with the Irish Republic. Militant unionists in the north complain the arrangement segregates them from the rest of the U.K..
  • The Journal.ie attempted to answer, “How would a united Ireland do economically?
  • The Republic announced “Our Rural Future, 2021-2025” plan, which calls for 20 percent of government employees to work remotely  or mixed city center and rural locations by December, with further decentralization in following years.
  • Old Ireland in Colour, a collection of 170 black and white photos colorized through a combination of cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology and old fashioned historical research, has been enjoying huge sales since its 2020 release. CNN and the Daily Mail published the latest features. (Thanks Bill T.)
  • Pope Francis elevated to International Marian and Eucharistic Shrine status the church and grounds at Knock, County Mayo, site of an 1879 apparition.
  • Technology firm Intel announced it will create 1,600 permanent high-tech jobs at its Leixlip campus in County Kildare.
  • Cork city officials and business leaders have applauded the decision by An Bord Pleanála, Ireland’s national planning review board, to grant permission for a 34-story hotel and commercial tower on the site of the former Port of Cork. It would become Ireland’s tallest building. An Taisce, Ireland’s national historic trust, complained it will create “enormous change in the character of the city’s skyline.”

Artist rending of Cork city tower.